More than half the world’s population is under 30 years old. This prompted Global Shapers to make an unprecedented large-scale survey with a goal of determining the mindset of this young generation. The Global Shapers survey, published in September last year, revealed that these young people are concerned about climate change, environmental sustainability, corruption, government accountability, unemployment, and lack of economic opportunity among other issues.
To get a further sense of how these young leaders would like to change the world, I approached some of them with an important question: If you were leader of your country, what would you do? This is what they told me.
Clockwise from left; Jack Greig, Chethna Ben, Zanele Mabaso, Renard Siew, Desy Karapchanska, Khalid Machchate, Lorena Rios, and Meghan Stevenson-Krausz.
Jack Greig, 26, Associate at Teach for Australia, Melbourne, Australia
Invest in wellbeing projects because our children’s future demands it. As technology progresses at a rapid rate, we know that the future of work will look very different to the one that we are educating our children for right now. Schools around the world that are effectively educating for the future are focusing on wellbeing, and the things that matter, like how to strengthen positive relationships, enhance personal resilience and explore what it means to be a contributing global citizen. In other words, students in these schools are not just being taught the facts, but are learning how to think and thrive in our complex and interconnected world. If we want to genuinely catalyze a shift to future-oriented teaching, we need to be equipping our teachers with strategies to practice and promote wellbeing on a daily basis.
Chethna Ben, 25, Assistant Lecturer at the University of the South Pacific, Suva, Fiji
Focus on solving the socio-economic challenges in the country. I draw inspiration from the principles on Nelson Mandela: to dream big, walk to freedom, to be resistant, to promote equality, and uphold persistence and confidence. If I were a prime minister, I will be the first female prime minister in Fiji; a country which is beautiful, yet still developing. Much of this attributes to the insecurity for women and children and rise in crime. Gender discrimination at work, street harassment, and rape are becoming a growing concern.There is an urgent need to foster safety at home, schools, workplace, and the community at large. I have a vision of a nation where all citizens will be given due respect; regardless of sex, ethnicity, or disability. I will work with communities to alleviate poverty and ensure that every family has food on their table. I will encourage all citizens to play their part in facilitating economic growth, social security, and environmental sustainability.
Zanele Mabaso, 25, Regional Advisor at Girls Globe, Cape Town, South Africa
Make a commitment to the country-level implementation of global and regional declarations, agendas and strategies. I’d invest in the socioeconomic empowerment and political representation, participation, leadership, involvement and meaningful engagement of young people and women. Science, technology and inclusive innovation through education, would be a national agenda and I’d commit to the prioritization of the health and wellbeing agenda of every woman, every child and every adolescent everywhere. The protection of human rights of all citizens and non-nationals would be at the heart of development and progress. Ensuring the nation understands the constitution and relative laws, I would challenge violations and call for policies that are more responsive, inclusive, holistic and for “everyone”.
I’d encourage youth-led entrepreneurship, intercontinental trade, and infrastructural development by investing in holistic quality rural and township development. Most importantly, I would serve (not rule) through the basis of equality, by being a steadfast feminist.
Renard Siew, 29, Environmental Advisor at Sime Darby, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
Counter intolerance and extremism in all its forms. Almost everything these days have reached its tipping point. When you look at politics, the world is now more divided than united. When you look into the economy, there are clear gaps between the rich and poor. When you look into ideology, faiths, and beliefs are being manipulated. There are always two extremes. I would strive really hard to promote moderation within the country. The concept of moderation embraces a wide range of issues, from religion, social justice and political systems to the challenges that the global economy faces. I would lead by example and choose to practice moderation in my thoughts and actions rather than just talking about it.
Desy Karapchanska, 29, Curator at Global Shapers Community, Athens, Greece
Try to improve the education system and the lifestyle of citizens. A small but crucial improvement would be the increase of first grade teachers' wages.
First-grade teachers are the most important influencer to children after their parents, and the ones by which children will spend more time during the creative and vulnerable ages of 6-10 years old. These experts should be paid well as one’s lifestyle and everyday life reflects their mood and attitude. You cannot expect someone living on the minimum wage to inspire, educate and mentor your children.
Additionally, I would develop new city parks that will improve citizen’s physical and psychological health, strengthen communities, and make cities more attractive places to live and work.
In my country, Greece, I would do everything possible to prevent the brain drain the economic crisis has caused and together with young people fight for a better tomorrow.
Khalid Machchate, 24, Chief Executive Officer at Kandw Technologies International, Rabat, Morocco
Push tax reforms on monopolies in my country to help small and medium-sized enterprises flourish. I would create easier foreign investment policies in education and scientific research, encouraging companies to create R&D centres in Morocco, opening opportunities for repressed talent. I would create open-market policies, pushing innovation and innovators further, giving them access to proper tools. I would create procedures which stopped corruption, and help to rescue initiatives from crumbling due to lack of funding. But first of all, through a massive national campaign with all private, public and social hands on deck, I would work non-stop to reduce our 48% illiteracy rate at least by half before hoping to see the other changes emerge.
Lorena Rios, 28, Consultant at Multilateral Investment Fund (MIF), member of IDB Group, Asuncion, Paraguay
Paraguay currently has a demographic bonus, 70% of its population is young, under 35 years. If I were prime minister there are several challenges as a country, personally, I would work on to improve governance and regional integration. I will love to continue working at Paraguay Plan: building a nation inspired by the following vision. Paraguay is a competitive country, among the most efficient food producers in the world, with booming and innovative industries that employ skilled workers. We're also a supplier of products and services which promote the knowledge economy. We feature highly in social development indexes. We are connected and open to neighbors and the world. We are environmentally and economically sustainable, with high levels of legal and citizen security, with attention to indigenous peoples and a strong roles for women. Young people with vision are leading the way in our country, with a democratic, supportive, transparent state that promotes equal opportunities.
Meghan Stevenson-Krausz, 26, Global Shaper, San Francisco Hub, San Francisco, USA
If I were President of the United States, I would make all education through the collegiate level, or equivalent, free. Education increases opportunity for everyone. But not all education is equal. Currently, US public schools are funded through property taxes. In areas where property values are low, taxes are low, and schools face a shortage of revenue, forcing already cash-strapped teachers to buy supplies out of pocket. I would nationalize the system and create a pool from which all schools are funded depending on the number of students and the needs and valuation of that community. In addition, I believe we have overvalued the college diploma and undervalued trade schools. College is not right for everyone, yet in today’s economy, it is increasingly difficult to make a living wage without a diploma. As President, I would build a stronger trade economy through existing union networks to empower individuals through opportunity.